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Sunday, 28 August 2016

US helps Erdogan rescue ISIS yet again (Sunday Guardian)

It is odd that Obama failed to discover that Erdogan’s latest salvo in the ‘war on ISIS’ in actuality helps the terror group to survive to fight another day.
If more evidence were needed of the ignorance of the US media on matters international, this is found in the numerous reports of Turkey sending troops and aircraft into Syria “to fight ISIS”. Newspapers such as the New York Times, which had in 2011 served as cheerleaders when Hillary Clinton sent attack aircraft and cruise missiles after Muammar Gaddafi, killing him in months and ensuring the destruction of Libya in subsequent years, wrote glowingly in their front page about the seizure of the town of Jarabulus on the Turkey-Syria border. The Turkish military was assisted by US intelligence and other assets, the way Saudi Arabia is being helped in its battle against Shia Houthi in Yemen. It is odd that President Barack Obama failed to discover that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s latest salvo in the “war on ISIS” in actuality helps the terror group to survive to fight another day, much as the Pakistan army (with substantial aid from George W. Bush) ensured through policy errors during 2001-2004 the survival and later revival of the Taliban. These days, Turkey is to ISIS what Pakistan is to the Taliban, and in both cases, it is the US which is allowing itself to become the facilitator by the Ankara and Islamabad regimes in command. In the meantime, elements of ISIS target Kurds and other minorities in Turkey itself, while sparing the growing Wahhabi element in the de-Kemalizing country. 
ISIS was on the run in Syria once Vladimir Putin entered the fray on behalf of Bashar Assad. Forces loyal to the government in Damascus were closing in on Jarabulus and other locations on the border with Turkey. Should this take place, it would become much more difficult for Ankara to continue to back “moderate opposition” fighters who, in reality, are no different in outlook, objectives and methods from ISIS. The Assad government’s controversial move of broadening its campaign to bomb Kurdish groups gave an opening to Erdogan to broaden his own intervention in the conflict through launching an offensive inside Syrian territory “to assist moderate freedom fighters against ISIS”. Amazingly, no western reporter has questioned the absurdity of “freedom fighters” who are battling to ensure a society where the dress and lifestyles of women get severely circumscribed, as do those of men. Nor has any seemed to understand that what Ankara is doing by its intervention in Syria is giving an escape route to ISIS just when that organisation is facing annihilation in that part of the Syria-Turkey border. What western news media claim to be the “melting away of ISIS resistance” in the face of the Turkish offensive inside Syria, is, in fact, the battlefield morphing of that militia into the “moderate opposition” backed by Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and France. 
These days, Turkey is to ISIS what Pakistan is to the Taliban, and in both cases, it is the US which is allowing itself to become the facilitator by the Ankara and Islamabad regimes in command.
President Obama is not the first President of the US to allow a multitude of terrorists to escape. George W. Bush similarly allowed large numbers of terrorists to be flown to safety from Kunduz during 2001-2002, courtesy the Pakistan air force. Like the Taliban, ISIS is fortunate in its choice of enemies. The Obama administration, from the start, adopted a half-hearted strategy to deal with the terror force, and has ensured its continued survival and metastases into communities across the globe. Much of the cause of such forbearance is the fact that several key allies of the US regard ISIS as a lesser evil than Shia Islam, and indeed frequently see the terror force as a useful corrective to the influence of Shia groups in selected parts of the world.
In Aleppo as well, US media reports claim that a free city was under siege by pro-Assad “extremists”, when in fact much of the city has been under the control of ISIS for nearly three years, and is only now slowly getting liberated from that scourge by Assad’s men. CNN reporters such as Clarissa Ward, who champion the terror brigades by misrepresenting them as “moderate fighters”, do not need to wear abayas in Damascus, but to them, it is the locations where they are forced to don such a dress to get by that are “free”. Much the same way, those in Kashmir who seek to drive out non-Wahhabis from the valley and introduce the death penalty for adultery and homosexuality are regarded as votaries of freedom from those claiming to be liberal. What is taking place at Jarabalus and other locations on the Syria-Turkey border is nothing less than the rescue of ISIS elements there. Just as the US-facilitated escape from Kunduz in 2001-2002 of Al Qaeda elements ensured the Taliban hell that returned to Afghanistan later, the intrusion of Turkey into Syria on behalf of fighters who have temporarily donned the garb of “moderate oppositionists” guarantees that ISIS will remain a potent force in Syria well into the coming year, rather than soon get eliminated the way it would have happened had Barack Obama shown some spine in confronting some US allies about their hardly clandestine assistance to the terror brigades that have created such murderous chaos across much of West Asia. 

Wall Street roots for Hillary, trashes Trump (Sunday Guardian)

Wall Street is betting on Clinton re-entering the White House in the 2016 election. Main Street is far weaker in the influence game.
Flush with funds and with almost the entire media serving as a PR vehicle for Hillary Clinton, while demonising Republican contender Donald Trump, conventional wisdom goes that the 8 November electoral battle has already been decided. Hillary will, according to the pundits, win, and the only question is how big the victory margin of the Democratic Party candidate will be. Such confidence is based on the former Secretary of State being the favoured candidate of Wall Street, which sees Donald Trump as unsympathetic to its demand for primacy in economic policy. The Clintons have been close to Wall Street for nearly three decades. Small wonder therefore that the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act (which had placed severe curbs on the financial industry) was repealed by President Bill Clinton in 1999. Since then, Wall Street has had the upper hand over Main Street in the world’s biggest economy. Steadily, the financial services industry has dominated traditional manufacturing, a consequence of which has been the closure of hundreds of thousands of enterprises that failed to meet the financial tests of Wall Street, the sole purpose of which was to ensure a copious flow of dividend and other income to mega investors as well as top executives of major companies. Simultaneously, the volume of the financial industry grew, reaching the astonishing sum of $120 trillion in value, an absurdity in an economy that is more than ten times smaller in size than such inflated estimates.
The valuations may have been imaginary, but the profits made by the financial sector were not, and these have dwarfed those earned by manufacturing enterprises. Many of the latter were taken over by funds and stripped of their assets, so as to generate huge profits on the sale. Long-term value and considerations such as equity and jobs were thrown aside in the quest for immediate returns on investment. As income distribution is much more skewed in the financial services industry than in manufacturing, with most in the former earning low levels of compensation, but a handful being billionaires, the middle class in the US has become poorer on an average since the 1990s, while income inequality has reached levels not seen since the 1920s. Seeing this, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt implemented his New Deal for the overall population of the US in the 1930s. Although financial sleight of hand ensures that the figures for total US output remain high, in reality the country is visibly declining in core areas such as infrastructure. The “Profit Now and Anyhow” culture of Wall Street has replaced the earlier mindset of steady and stable growth of manufacturing and other services. The consequence is that US manufactures have been losing ground to countries such as China. In the airline industry, for example, cost cutting has lowered the quality of US carriers to what may be described as the Soviet Aeroflot standard. During a flight by a US airline from New Delhi to Newark on 20 August, even amenity kits were absent in the Spartan business class, as it appeared that it was company policy not to spend money on them in certain sectors. The Newark to Seattle flight of the same airline, even in the first class cabin, had seats with minimal reclining capability, while the food was inedible. Across the US, standards of service are going down even as charges to the consumer are rising and the profits made by big operators in Wall Street are shooting up. However, the 2008 financial crash resulted in a sudden loss of faith by the public in the financial services industry, although President Barack Obama followed the Clinton playbook of paying out vast sums of taxpayer cash to rescue Wall Street from its own excesses. 
So irresistible has the Wall Street-fuelled march towards the Democratic Party nomination of Hillary Clinton been that her socialist opponent, Bernie Sanders, was forced to cringe at the Democratic Party convention and endorse her despite having pointed out on multiple occasions earlier that she was the candidate of Wall Street. The Obama administration continued the Clinton-Bush tradition of giving top posts in the economic policy silos to those who had been vetted and approved by Wall Street, such as Timothy Geithner and Lawrence Summers. Despite her harsh rhetoric against Wall Street, a President Hillary Clinton will continue the practice of placing the interests of the financial services industry at the top of her list of priorities, perhaps unlike Donald Trump, whose relations with the financial services industry are chilly and whose activities relate to the building and manufacturing economy rather than to the finance sector. Small wonder that even the (Bush era) Treasury Secretary responsible for the 2008 crash, Hank Paulson, has endorsed Clinton, as have an army of others in the financial services industry, while they have been openly abusive of Donald Trump. The support given by Wall Street and its numerous offshoots to Hillary Clinton has resulted in a flood of donations to her campaign, and to almost the entire US media entering on a near-hysterical campaign designed to convince voters that Donald Trump is a bigot and worse. 
Not even a pretence of objectivity is being made by media channels such as the Washington Post and CNN, who are daily finding out new reasons to attack the Republican nominee in a manner unparalleled in recent US history. While (to protect Hillary Clinton) Bernie Sanders was made to stand down from his pledge to take his campaign up to the convention floor and beyond, an “independent” Presidential candidate has been found by financial interests who is expected to siphon off a substantial number of Republican votes from Donald Trump. 
Wall Street is betting on Hillary Clinton re-entering the White House in the 2016 election, a desire shared by those members of the Republican Party who are themselves close to the financial services industry, such as former President George W. Bush and former Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney and John McCain, who are openly canvassing against their own party’s nominee. Main Street is far weaker in the influence game, and it shows in the fact that the wind seems to be filling the Hillary sails. Smart money is betting that Wall Street will prevail over Main Street, and that the financial services industry will as usual get the better of the manufacturing and building sector, by their candidate decisively defeating another who does not (in practice rather than speech) share the same loyalty to Wall Street. 
However, the race is far from over, as the anger against Wall Street (or what is called “the system”) is palpable across the US, and may result in a large number of votes going to Donald Trump or the Green candidate as a protest against the post-1990s establishment and its candidate, Hillary Clinton. Millions of voters have watched their standard of living plummet. In particular, hundreds of thousands have lost their homes to bank foreclosures, even while these same institutions were given massive handouts by the Obama administration throughout 2009-12. Apart from the fact that the manufacturing industry is smarting from the neglect it is suffering in contrast to the largesse showered on the financial services industry by successive administrations, other factors are operating in favour of Trump as well that may be resulting in an “iceberg formation”. So far as his support is concerned, the bulk of it may be hidden “under the water”, the way most of an iceberg is. 
The three other factors that have come to the surface in this extraordinary election are (a) a growing uneasiness about China and its rising power and a worry that this will soon become irreversible; (b) fear of the reach and potency of Wahhabism and its terror machine; and (c) a perception that relations between the black and white races have become worse rather than better after the country’s first African-American President took office in 2009. Hillary Clinton has had extensive contacts with the Chinese leadership, in contrast to Donald Trump, who has almost none of such linkages, while on Wahhabism, his rhetoric has been fiery rather than accommodative in the manner of his opponent, who has close links to Qatar, Saudi Arabia and other GCC states. The perception that Trump would be far more hawkish on China and on Wahhabism than Hillary Clinton is an important factor explaining the fact that the Republican candidate is still within striking distance of victory on 8 November. However, where Hillary Clinton scores decisively over Trump is in the non-white vote, which has been put off by the Republican candidate’s rhetoric, some of which could be interpreted as majoritarianism. Whether such a gap can be bridged by bridge building to the powerful and vibrant African-American and Latino communities, and by the majority (white) community US citizens coming out to vote for Trump in large numbers (in contrast to low turnouts within this group in the past), remains to be seen. 
Having built up a formidable war chest, Hillary Clinton has the cash needed to power a blitz of advertising during the coming weeks in addition to the food of supportive coverage she has been getting in the US media. Trump’s early mistakes, especially some of his remarks against Hispanics and African-Americans, may yet result in a defeat for the construction magnate. Whoever wins, this will be the most consequential US election since that which saw Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the White House in 1933. As of now, it is clear that Wall Street has the edge. 
However, much could change during the coming two months. The US voter is seething and is worried, a mood that may result in a surprise for the establishment, the media and the pundits on 8 November. 

Friday, 26 August 2016

Trump hatred makes US media go viral (Pakistan Observer)

IN 1989, Arkansas Governor William Jefferson Clinton decided that he had a high chance of becoming the President of the United States and began systematically working towards that objective. In less than two years, he had succeeded against an incumbent President who had navigated the collapse of the USSR besides comprehensively defeating a dictator ( Saddam Hussein) who had marched into another country (Kuwait). Overall, George H W Bush was a competent if unspectacular chief executive of his country, but this record failed to prevent an untested politician from south from defeating him in the polls.

Clinton’s record at statehouse in Little Rock was unspectacular, and his experience of politics and policy at the federal level was close to zero, while Bush had two decades of experience in govt at the central level, and performed creditably in each of the tasks assigned to him. The problem was that he had a personality that was without any of the flamboyance associated with movie stars and modern politicians, while Clinton was charming both to large groups of people as well as to individuals whom he needed in his climb to the top. In a contest where image counted for much more than reality, he raced ahead of Bush. Unfortunately for Hillary Clinton, she is very similar to George H W Bush, in that she comes across as stilted and hesitant, possessing not enough of the charm of her spouse. Despite a large and effective political machine, she lost out to Barack Obama during the 2008 Democratic Party primaries. Her opponent subsequently went on to win the election. While Barack Obama adopted a Clintonesque set of policies during his first term, filling his administration from retreads from the Bill Clinton years, during his second term, the present US Head of State has made major changes in policy, including towards Iran and Cuba Bill Clinton has fashioned a political machine that is better than that of any of his recent predecessors, and this machine has been placed in service of Hillary. 

The reality is that the Clintons are a team, with daughter Chelsea now forming the third pole of the Clinton family enterprise, which is a mixture of commerce and politics. For the Clintons, political power and money move in unison, and they believe that it is essential to make and to spend vast amounts of money in order to win. In the minds of the Clintons, it was the huge influx of cash into the Obama campaign that gave the first African-American President of the US the oxygen needed to overtake Hillary Clinton. In the battle against Donald Trump, they are relying on the better funded Democratic Party campaign to ensure that the Republican challenger meets the same fate as Barry Gold water did against Lyndon Johnson in 1964. 

It must be stated that it was fortunate for the country that Johnson was elected, for it was the Texas politician who ensured the passage of the Civil Rights Act as well as creating the modern Social Security system. Johnson was considered a bit of a hillbilly by the East Coast media and their West Coast copycats, but the fact is that the issue which tripped him up was Viet Nam. And the reason for this was that he obeyed the commands of the Kennedy holdovers in his team, much as Obama went by the opinions of the former Clinton team members, especially in the matter of economic policy. 

Despite his professions of idealism, Obama consigned millions of homeowners to the pavement, allowing mortgage companies to take over their homes. At the same time, huge amounts of cash were spent on rescuing banks and other financial institutions from the ditch that the greed of executives at the top had cast them into. Lawrence Summers and Timothy Geithner were preferred for appointment by Obama as economic advisors over those who had been in place during first election campaign of charismatic Kenyan-American who so entranced Nobel Committee that he was awarded a peace rise in midst of pursuing two major wars, in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

Had Donald Trump been a bit more diplomatic in his views about two communities that have done so much good to the US (African Americans and Hispanics), he would have easily been the favourite in the 2016 election. Hillary Clinton is clearly rehearsed and unspontaneous, while it is clear that the foundation run by her daughter and husband had a considerable say within the State Department. It is ironic that the Clinton Foundation talks of “lowering the cost of AIDS drugs” when in fact it is close to the very pharmaceutical companies that are selling medicines at very high prices and buying up companies producing generic drugs either to shut down entire production lines of low cost drugs for diseases of the poor, or boosting the prices of generic drugs to levels not seen before. 

Luckily, the US media keep away from critical examination of any adverse record of the Clintons, such as the fact that Hillary Clinton’s policies as Secretary of State adopted the line taken by those countries whose nationals made huge donations to the Clinton Foundation. Only during the past few days has the volume of leaks about the foundation been too much to get ignored, although it is clear that media outlets unapologetically taking a pro-Clinton course ( such as CNN or the New York Times) are unhappy at having to devote space to any report which damages Hillary Clinton In a final twist of the truth, it is Donald Trump (who opposed the wars in Libya, Syria and Iraq and who seeks peace with Russia and even North Korea) who is being portrayed as a warmonger (in shades of Gold water). 

As for Hillary Clinton, the individual who backed the war in Iraq and who joined hands with Cameron and Hollande to intervene in Libya and trigger the mayhem that has followed, she has been put in the role of peacemaker by the US and EU media. Their treatment of the Trump-Clinton battle makes it clear that the media in the US and the EU is about as “free” as that in Russia or China. However, even the demonisation of Trump may not be enough to ensure that Hillary Clinton wins, unless she can acquire at least a bit of the charm and charisma of Bill Clinton. 


Sunday, 21 August 2016

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, don’t forget JP (Sunday Guardian)

Laws brought in by Nitish Kumar to eliminate the consumption of alcohol in Bihar will fail as completely as similar laws have in Gujarat.
The death toll in the illicit liquor tragedy in Bihar is likely to approach two dozen, and the responsibility for each of these vests with Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who has decided to follow the Gujarat Model and implement prohibition in his state. Indeed, the law passed by “JP follower” Nitish is so toxic in its colonial nature, so anti-citizen in its provisions, that it makes those drafted by the UPA’s Draconian Duo, Palaniappan Chidambaram and Kapil Sibal, look benign by comparison. All that is needed to jail an entire family in the state from where Jayaprakash Narayan came, is to plant a bottle of alcohol in their house, or better still, incentivise the local police into claiming in writing that a bottle of fruit juice in the cupboard was in reality gin or whisky. In the Philippines, President Roderigo Duterte has launched a “War on Drugs”, but even that strongman acknowledges the need for sensitivity by only making almost all addicts simply sign a statement that from then onwards, they will abstain from the consumption of narcotics. Despite such forbearance, jails in Manila are getting crammed with those picked up by the police in the harsh enforcement climate begun by the new head of state. Many of those incarcerated will get transformed into virulent anti-socials, as prisons in the Philippines (as also those in the “world’s largest democracy”, India) are academies designed by their procedures and conditions to transform previously mild individuals into hardened criminals and psychotics. As the prevalence of illegal sex and drink in Saudi Arabia, Iran and other hyper-restrictive countries testifies, man-made laws are useless in altering human behaviour. The Kerala official who pointed out that looking at a lady for 14 seconds would ensure jail time was correct, as the same could now, under the Verma Law, be prosecuted as “stalking”. This columnist goes for a walk in surroundings not always denuded of people, and it is a chore to ensure that there is enough distance between himself and the many members of the fair sex who are going about their stroll at the same time, so as to avoid contact and the possibility that any female individual inadvertently touched will scream and call for both a television reporter and a policeman to ensure two decades of legal hell for such an offence.

The soul of JP must be very, very unhappy at the way his self-proclaimed admirers are becoming as adept in using the police as the Viceroys were, or Indira Gandhi during 1975-77.
The J.S. Verma Sex Offender Laws have not in the slightest prevented the abuse and exploitation of women, including those that are very young, while the laws brought in by Nitish Kumar to eliminate the consumption of alcohol in Bihar will fail as completely as similar laws have in Gujarat. Long ago, Ram Jethmalani sought as Law Minister to de-colonise the legal system in India by doing away with the many that reek of the colonial impulse. Not surprisingly, he was removed by the then PM from the job, for it is the civil society-phobic cast of the colonial governance model which ensures the flood of bribes and privilege that continues to curse this country seven decades into its post-1947 existence. What Nitish Kumar’s legislation will do is to give a boost to the mafias controlling the illicit liquor trade, and to kill through hooch those resident in Bihar. Those not killed will become slowly poisoned and diseased by the consumption of hooch that kills over time and not—in a more merciful manner—instantly. Looking at the promiscuous use of police power to imprison and to harass through the legal process that remains the fashion in India, no matter who gets elected to power, it is clear that the soul of Jayaprakash Narayan must be very, very unhappy at the way his self-proclaimed admirers are becoming as adept in using the police as the Viceroys were, or Indira Gandhi during 1975-77. There is very little difference in terms of attitudes towards the colonial governance system of either the Congress party or those it sent to prison during the Emergency. It was expected of Arvind Kejriwal that he would make improvements in RTI a priority by opening up the files of the Delhi government. These days, even Rahul Gandhi is talking the language of democratic change and enhancement of freedoms, words that would have been taken more seriously had he not re-nominated Sibal and Chidambaram to the Rajya Sabha. Clearly, freedoms come first while in opposition, while the police and other instruments of the state regain their supremacy when in government.

The soul of JP must be very, very unhappy at the way his self-proclaimed admirers are becoming as adept in using the police as the Viceroys were, or Indira Gandhi during 1975-77. Narendra Modi has talked of “minimum government” and this is certainly the only way India can be rescued from chaos. However, for this to become a reality, the PM will need to look beyond the Lutyens Lok in the matter of bringing into high office those that can help him lift the governance system to 21st century standards in place of the 19th century level it has been stuck in for the past century and three-quarters. As for Modi’s principal opponents in 2019, Arvind Kejriwal will need to reflect more on Aruna Roy and her passion for open government, while Nitish Kumar needs to implement JP’s philosophy of primacy to civil society in his official actions. Avoiding transparency in governance or jailing entire families for a technical offence is not the way such professed critics of the Emergency are expected to trod.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Asia should unite against terrorism (Pakistan Observer)

HAD the 1914–19 and 1939–45 world wars not taken place, the odds are that much of the world would have managed its liberation from countries in Europe only about now. In the case of India, a factor that has never been mentioned in the hundreds of books written by official historians of that period was the growing sense of injustice felt by “native” soldiers in the British Indian Army. Although several millions of such troops fought and died in both world wars on the side of the Allies, their contribution has been ignored. Indeed, when France celebrated the 50th anniversary of the entry of Allied troops on its soil in 1944, India was not invited, despite the fact that the (then undivided) country had put several times more troops into the fray than had the French during 1939–45,who during that war were under occupation by Germany for four years during that period.
A similar neglect was the case in the UK, the country that used up vast numbers Indian manpower and quantity of resources against Germany in both wars. In contrast, India was given an honoured place at celebrations in Moscow for what is called in Russia the “Great Patriotic War”. Whether in Europe or in Asia, “native” troops saw that the privileged men from Europe in their militaries were often very poor fighters. In particular, the sweep of the Japanese victory over British, French and Dutch forces in Indo-China during the 1939–45 war broke the myth of superiority that had been used till then to keep those of Asian origin from attempting to shake off their European tormentors.
The discriminatory treatment of non-Europeans caused resentment that led to an eruption of mutinies in the army and the navy. It was clear that in a very short time, the British in India would face a full scale revolt of the “native” component in their armed forces that would be much bigger than the proportion which revolted against their British overlords . Without armed force, there was no way the British Indian Empire could survive, which was why it was reluctantly accepted that the Union Jack would need to come down permanently from flag staffs all across the subcontinent.
Immediately after he took office as Prime Minister of India on August 15,1947, Jawaharlal Nehru chose the former residence of the British Commander-in-Chief of the Indian army as his official home. Subsequently, he downgraded the status of the military, so much so that in India, the men and women in uniform have very little say in decisions concerning them, being excluded even from positions in the Ministry of Defence. Over the decades, police and paramilitary forces took on the uniform, the plumage, of soldiers, including the fixing of stars on their official vehicles, while the Ministry of Defence has since 1947 been run by officials without any training in matters of national defence, a lack that shows itself with high frequency in the quality of decisions which get taken. As for the politicians who nominally are in charge, most look only to selected deals and leave other matters to the civilian bureaucracy. Those who are admirers of Prime Minister Modi are hoping that he will ensure that specialist ministries such as Finance, Defence, Commerce, Home and Human Resource Development will be staffed by cadres with domain knowledge, and also include recruits from outside the official machinery at all levels. Thus far, Modi has been very slow to make fundamental changes, preferring to proceed in incremental steps so as to avoid any confrontation with powerful lobbies within the bureaucracy, although there are signs that such a policy of “hastening slowly” may soon change.
The wars of the future will not be the same as battles fought in the 19th and 20th centuries. They will involve the extensive use of cyber and information technology, as well as methods such as drone warfare and lasers. Psychological operations will be important, and brainpower will prevail over muscle power, in that flexible tactics and speed and surprise will ensure victory. Given the vast pool of Information Technology recruits in India, the potential for such new methods is significant. However, this will come about only through decisions taken at the top. In such a context, the example of NATO is relevant. That alliance invariably goes into action only against much weaker foes, especially regimes which have been denuded (or denuded themselves) of high-impact weapons.
However, despite having spent vast amounts of money and deployed weapons of a sophistication far above that of other military alliances, NATO has suffered defeat after defeat, including in the longest war it has fought, that with the Taliban since 2001. That militia is still not only alive but kicking, and kicking hard, so much so that NATO commanders seem to be clueless as to how to overcome this foe. Because of failure to eliminate the Taliban, even the US is desperately searching for “Good Taliban” ie those fighters who will leave its and allied militaries alone.
In contrast to NATO, which for two years could inflict very little damage on Daesh (IS), within a year the Russian Air Force has notched up much more successes on the field than the French, British and US air forces combined, while the Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) in Iran has shown itself to be the most capable of the many forces battling ISIS on the field While India needs to enter into a robust partnership with the US, this ought not to be at the cost of continued closeness to Russia, or indeed to Iran.
In the war on IS, this columnist has since 2013 argued in favour of carrying out air strikes on Daesh targets in Iraq and Syria with the cooperation of the authorities in Baghdad and Damascus. It is a welcome sign that the Minister of State for External Affairs, M J Akbar,is soon to visit Iraq and Syria to discuss the war on terror. Rather than go the way of 19th century Europe, where countries weakened the continent and themselves by fighting each other, 21st century Asia needs to cooperate together against the terror threat ,especially that posed by Daesh.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Shock and awe Kashmir’s self-declared Pakistanis (Sunday Guardian)

The separatists intend to make Kashmir what Iraq, Libya and Syria have become.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has pointed out that the lawful residents of Kashmir enjoyed the same level of “azaadi” (freedom) as other citizens in the Union of India did, thereby subtly reiterating the fact that any “solution” to what is termed the “Kashmir problem” cannot mean separation from the rest of the country. What boosters of the ongoing efforts at insurgency in the state forget is that the separatist elements are clear about just what type of a state they intend to transform Kashmir into. The proposed state would take away the rights of women in the matter of dress, work and education. Ladies accused of straying outside marriage would be stoned to death. Those citizens having belief systems other than Wahhabi would be expelled. The young would be encouraged to take up arms to do battle in the ways prescribed by armed Wahhabi groups, which is to blow themselves up together with as many innocents as they can kill. In short, their purpose would be to make Kashmir what Iraq, Libya and Syria have become as a consequence of the success of “freedom fighters” of a like disposition. In the streets of Srinagar and other towns in Kashmir, it is those whose average age is 15 who pour onto the streets. Those who are older know that delinking any part of the state still in the control of India after the Mountbatten-Nehru ceasefire of 1949 is not an option. Thousands of youths in Kashmir are seeing their futures demolished because of their involvement in the “youth wave” tactics employed by GHQ Rawalpindi against security forces in Kashmir.

Some have opined that “love and affection” should be shown to such juveniles. The next time a mob of several hundred—armed with daggers, sticks and stones—come at a police or BSF picket with the intention of killing all uniformed personnel at the post, should the response of those under attack be to come out of their bunkers with flowers and sweets in their hands? Would such a show of “love and affection” deflect the mobs from their murderous designs to instead eat with gusto the halwa, laddoos and jalebi handed to them by self-disarmed security forces? What would happen if such a display of uniformed love and affection failed to move the youthful mobs, and instead they continued on their task of killing security personnel?

This columnist has for long been sceptical of the power of “love and affection” to melt the hearts of those in Kashmir who are seeking to make the ISI succeed in its design for the state, which is that it should bleed incessantly, thereby garnering newspaper headlines across the globe. Oddly, few of the newspapers and magazines that fault the Indian Army (for seeking to prevent the forcible conversion of a part of the country into a Wahhabi state), report on the Pakistan army’s own military campaign against elements in the northwest of that country, in which artillery, helicopter gunships and fighter aircraft are used daily in a manner unknown in the Kashmir valley. Global newspapers that fill their columns with events in the Kashmir valley, hardly mention such operations. Forbearance has not won India any points globally, for the patter of negative media commentary and official comments about the situation in Kashmir continues. Could it be that the Indian Army’s self-limiting tactics are wrong, and that perhaps Pakistan, the US, Russia and others who respond much more forcefully to acts similar to those committed in Kashmir by armed groups are right? What if, as in Pakistan, the full force of the armed forces were used to raze the homes of those who are sheltering those indulging in armed struggle against the Union of India? Why not give such Self-Declared Pakistanis “azaadi” from their properties in India? If the laws on sedition and on waging war against the state have any validity at all, these need to be used against the Geelanis and the Andrabis. Rather than send them to prison, what ought to be done is to take over their properties and send them to the country they regard as home. Rather than confused knots of police and security personnel responding with air rifle pellets to violent mobs, what is needed is to educate those in Kashmir who are inclined towards separatism of the multitudinous capabilities of the Indian armed forces. This could be achieved through full-scope attacks on militant nests in the state, and by conducting operations on the scale and ferocity of those conducted in Pakistan by that country’s army. Of course, the official policy of the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Home Affairs has been to spare even the homes of those who shelter elements of the armed separatist groups in Kashmir. Such a “love and affection” policy has done little to cure too many in the Valley of the belief that the Indian state has a marshmallow core. Certainly the “sidelined majority” in Kashmir (those who understand that the state’s accession to India is irrevocable) need gentle handling, but Self-Declared Pakistanis who instigate immature youths into acts of violence need to feel “Shock and Awe” and not any more “Love and Affection”.

During the 1990s, the US, China, the EU and the GCC were united in seeking an alteration in the status quo that was favourable to Pakistan. India’s ally, the USSR, had been defeated in Afghanistan and GHQ in Rawalpindi was shifting focus from that country to Kashmir, moving more irregular conscripts into the state. Today, even the GCC has been taking a nuanced position on Kashmir, despite periodic gusts of hot air from the OIC. Unless Delhi convinces doubters through a show of capabilities in the field that accession is final, and that the Union of India has both the might and the will to ensure the defeat of the Pakistan military’s designs, the cauldron in the valley will continue to boil over again and again, damaging the future of a talented and admirable people in a valley that has the potential to rival Silicon Valley in a calmer future.

PLA hawks fuel Pakistan’s push for limited war (Sunday Guardian)

There are reports of significant transfers of missile systems from China to Pakistan to add to the stores already present in that country.
The rising level of tensions in the Kashmir valley is not accidental, but forms part of a design by GHQ Rawalpindi to boost tensions in that state and in the rest of India, so that the way gets cleared for a limited conflict which would depress investor sentiment about India for several years. Given the disposition and dispersal of forces, the Pakistan army is confident of holding its own in a limited and conventional conflict with India across the Line of Control (LoC) as well as the International Boundary (IntB) in Jammu & Kashmir. The perception at GHQ is that India could be deterred from opening more fronts (especially in the Punjab and Sindh sectors, as took place in 1965) by the threat of escalation through use of tactical nuclear weapons, which in their view, Indian forces are “yet to possess”. This time around, GHQ Rawalpindi is confident of support from China in the form of feints across the Line of Actual Control (LOAC) between that country and India. The Pakistan air force already has J17 fighters, the technology for which has been transferred to Pakistan, and there are reports of significant transfers of missile systems from China to Pakistan to add to the stores already present in that country. China has already signalled its acceptance of Pakistan as the legitimate owner of Kashmir by declaring the border between itself and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) as the “International Boundary”, on which both countries now routinely and jointly patrol. Within the Afghanistan Quad, China has invariably taken the side of Pakistan, and has gone as far as to host three rounds of talks with the Taliban, despite that group’s record as a terrorist force. In a display of what may be expected in a future conflict situation, the PLA has made incursions into Uttarakhand, a sector that till now had been relatively free of such incidents, even as PLA troops in uniform have regularly been seen on the Indian side of the LoC. PLA hawks have, over the past year, increased their level of cooperation with the Pakistan army, including in ways that pose a direct challenge to India’s interests.

Concurrently, the Pakistan army is secretly gearing up to fight a limited war in the Kashmir theatre, which will take place on the excuse of “responsibility to protect”, relying on the spurious claim that there is a “genocide of civilians” taking place in the Kashmir valley, a false claim that surprisingly has found more than a few takers in India, besides the usual suspects abroad. Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif is lobbying for another term on the excuse of tensions with India, and has ensured that posters asking for him to take over and “save” the country have appeared all across cities in Pakistan. Public opinion surveys show that the general is certainly more popular than Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who has been scarred by constant revelations (including in the Panama Papers) about the wealth of his family. Not that Nawaz Sharif would do anything to block offensive action against India. During the 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts, the 1999 Kargil incursions and the 2016 Pathankot terror attack, it was Sharif who was technically Head of Government in Pakistan. Also, in effect, much of the powers of the Prime Minister now vest with the Chief of Army Staff, as indeed has been the case throughout most of the history of Pakistan. It is COAS Sharif who okayed the plastering of a train with posters of Burhan Wani, and who has sanctioned fund collection in Pakistan, India and the GCC in the name of Burhan Wani by the JeM and the JuD, both international terror organisations protected by China in the United Nations. It was no accident that the PML (Nawaz) “won” the elections in PoK, a farce that is invariably scripted by the army. In September at the UN General Assembly, Pakistan is expected to focus on the situation in Kashmir, and this time around, India may not be fielding its most potent speaker, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and perhaps not even External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, perhaps in an effort to downplay the importance of what is usually simply a talking shop. Overall, the year ahead is planned by GHQ Rawalpindi to be exceptionally bumpy for the Modi government. In such a battle of both mind and muscle, courteous behaviour is a casualty, as was shown by the affront to Home Minister Rajnath Singh during his recent visit to Islamabad.

What is giving the Pakistan army oxygen in such a battle with India is no longer the US, but China, where a substantial section of the establishment is in favour of assisting the Pakistan military in its anti-India operations, so as to keep India from going beyond its South Asian boundaries in its diplomacy and its strategic outreach. Such an alliance works against the logic of India-China cooperation that has been promoted by President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Modi, and creates a distance between Delhi and Beijing that would delight some other players, especially Pakistan and Japan.

Clearly, ongoing efforts by those truly (as distinct from merely verbally) loyal to President Xi to ensure unified control of Chinese policy are not yet successful. For President Xi Jinping understands the US logic of close ties with India in a replication of President Richard Nixon’s outreach to Beijing in 1971, when he initiated the groundbreaking reconciliation with China for which Henry Kissinger (who was initially opposed to the idea) later took credit. At that time, China was an economically backward country with a messy political situation. However, Nixon saw the future potential of the country and ordered his officials to give its leaders the respect that potential (rather than actuality) merited. Over the next two decades, the Washington-Beijing partnership helped enervate the Soviet Union and finally bring it down in 1992. In the new century, first George W. Bush and in his second term, Barack Obama, have understood that a close alliance with India is needed to try and ensure a repeat of the USSR meltdown of the governance system, this time with a much more formidable rival, the People’s Republic of China. Should India join hands with Japan, Australia, Singapore, Vietnam, South Korea and the Philippines in a security system designed to neutralise China’s capabilities across the Indo-Pacific, the stage would be set for confrontations which, if China were to lose, would lead to a decline in respect and confidence in the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), thereby setting the stage for a “colour revolution” across China sometime into the second five-year term of President Xi. In such a constellation, India is the keystone, as no other country in Asia has the potential to challenge China in both the military as well as the economic spheres over the next decade. Both President Bush and his successor have been transparent in their desire to increase the strategic heft of Delhi against Beijing, despite repeated statements to the contrary. This ramping up of a partnership is in anticipation of a future clash with China in a theatre in Asia that may involve the use of force.

President Xi understands the geopolitical game being played in Asia by the US and Japan, two allies that are moving in lockstep to first halt and later reverse China’s sprint towards dominance in Asia, now that the PRC has already achieved primacy in the largest continent on the globe. However, his war on corruption has resulted in ethically compromised sections of the CCP carrying on a campaign of sabotage against him, especially by blocking initiatives such as the effort to forge close ties with India, now that the government is headed by another Asian nationalist, Narendra Damodardas Modi, who replaced a self-declared admirer of the colonial era, Manmohan Singh. The People’s Liberation Army top ranks, in particular, are feeling extreme discomfort at Xi’s repeated culls of compromised officers, and are hitting back by pushing for an aggressive foreign policy that has had effects such as unifying much of South-East Asia against China on the South China Sea question. Another prong of the policy of the PLA “hawks” (who in effect are the best friends of their US counterparts) is to constantly belittle India and seek to confine it in the South Asia box. This was most recently on display at the Seoul Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG) meeting, when China was the only major power opposing India’s entry into a group whose benefits are 90% already enjoyed by India as a consequence of the India-US nuclear agreement that was ratified by the IAEA. The PLA hawks are in alliance with the non-proliferation lobby in Beijing, whose principals interact frequently and closely with Pakistan and North Korea, while reserving their fire on a country that has never proliferated nuclear technology or weapons as yet, India. Key non-proliferation experts in Beijing played a decisive role in ensuring that China opposed India at Seoul, thereby helping to make into reality a day when the Indian Navy would steam alongside its US, Australian and Japanese counterparts in the waters of the South China Sea and elsewhere in the Indo-Pacific. The India-phobic, Pakistan-centric group misled the CCP core into believing that opposing India at the Seoul NSG meeting would have only “limited consequences”. The fact that Beijing rejected requests by the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister, the National Security Advisor and the Foreign Secretary of India to adopt a helpful stand at Seoul has shaken the faith and trust in the leadership of China by the Indian establishment. In particular, the question now being asked is whether Xi is strong enough to challenge the India-phobic hawks in his entourage, or will he continue to be led by Pakistan-centric elements in determining policy towards India?

Fitting a pattern whereby the policies implemented by the PLA hawks in effect benefit the strategic interests of the US and Japan, the NSG meeting at Seoul has severely weakened China-friendly voices in India and boosted the power of influential policymakers in Delhi, who seek to shed restraint and openly join hands with Washington and Tokyo in militarily curbing the ambitions of China, in much the same way as the PLA hawks have sought to box in India through deals with Islamabad, Kathmandu, Colombo, Dhaka and even Male. Many in China still in positions of responsibility are “seeking to weaken Xi by declaring support for him”. This they are achieving by implementing a hyper-nationalist policy that is converting Delhi, Manila and Hanoi into votaries of a military alliance with the US. Of course, it is in India’s national interest to ally with the US to (a) ensure protection and fightback against Wahhabi terror and terror states, and (b) make sure that Asia be kept free of the dominance of any single power. However, should the Modi-Xi diplomacy succeed in crafting a fullscope commercial alliance between China and India, the odds that Delhi would participate in any future conflict with China would get reduced to almost zero. Such a normalisation of ties is, however, anathema to the PLA hawks and their longtime allies in GHQ Rawalpindi. Indeed, in the case of China and Pakistan, “the tail wags the dog”, in that it is Beijing that functions in accordance with the diktat of Rawalpindi rather than the other way about. Both in the case of India and Afghanistan, Chinese policy appears to have been scripted by GHQ Rawalpindi, rather than by the national interest of the PRC, which is to ensure that India does not move into the stage of being as much a military and strategic rival of China as Japan and the US so visibly are.

However, for a conflict-dispelling chemistry to get created between Delhi and Beijing, President Xi will need to reach out to India and break the restrictive mould of his India-phobic establishment, notably the PLA, the non-proliferation bureaucracy and elements of the foreign policy establishment that “talk Chinese but think American”. This India-phobic trio is backing the generals in Pakistan in their drive to generate a crisis with India that would shift global attention from East and South-East Asia back to South Asia, preferably through a limited conflict over Kashmir that is expected to have the effect of damping down India’s prospects for high growth for several years, in each of which more than ten million young people will flood the job market looking for work that in the absence of double digit growth will be absent.

Those eager to witness a commercial partnership between India and China that would boost trade and other flows between the two countries to $500 million in five years are hopeful that the severe blowback from the NSG debacle (in which China has come close to ensuring that India join the US and Japan in a military alliance against China in Asia) would serve as a warning to move against the “India hawks”. This needs to be done by the many in the CCP who support President Xi in his courageous moves to demolish the hold of crooked cadres in the governance of the world’s other superpower. Indeed, whether it be global entrepreneurs such as Jack Ma or the CEOs of major state-owned enterprises, each recognises the importance of India in ensuring future economic health for China. In contrast, all that Pakistan promises is more and more expenditure squandered on a project that will pass through some of the most unsafe bits of the planet. The hope is that those loyal to Xi will move to reduce the hold of PLA hawks over foreign policy relating to India. These hawks are against the long-term interests of China, seeking to coordinate with GHQ Rawalpindi in the latter’s designs to harass and weaken the Indian state in multiple ways. Should this expectation of Xi managing to ensure a change in Beijing’s policy towards India not get realised, the seas ahead for India-China relations are likely to witness severe storms.

Friday, 12 August 2016

NATO bats for ISIS, allies in Aleppo (Pakistan Observer)

DONALD J Trump has been condemned by the strategic establishment on both sides of the Atlantic for his comments on NATO. However, the reality is that the Republican nominee is correct in his assessment of the military alliance, that it is now an anachronism, and indeed a dangerous one for the security of the globe. Once the Soviet Union collapsed, NATO ought to have been disbanded and replaced by a mesh of alliances across the globe, some involving European states, others excluding them. However, bureaucracies are adept at survival, as for example has been witnessed at India’s Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO), which has morphed into a trade union for scientists and technologists rather a means towards self-reliance in advanced weaponry.
NATO is even better at providing “jobs for the boys” than the DRDO, and has since the 1990s evolved into an alliance without a genuine core mission, except of course self-preservation NATO has often intervened in force during the past two decades, much more than was the case in previous decades, but these are invariably in countries whose military capabilities are far inferior to those of the alliance (which avoids tangling with Moscow despite the takeover of territories in Georgia and Ukraine by an assertive Vladimir Putin) However, while the alliance usually has muscle to win a battle or two, it lacks brainpower needed to win the war.
In Afghanistan, the Taliban are still a force in almost a third of the country, and control much of poppy trade. This is despite constant pounding by US and other forces against them, interspersed with efforts at co-opting elements of the Taliban into power-sharing arrangements. Afghan National Army (ANA) has till recently been deprived even of an Air Force, this while NATO spends on itself tens of billions of dollars each year in deployments that on the ground achieve almost no long-term result. Whether it be in Iraq, Afghanistan or in other locations where NATO has inserted itself, much of its expenses have come about as a consequence of funding a force with bloated expenditure levels.
India or China could each deploy hundreds of thousands of troops across theatres of conflict at a cost far below that incurred by the profligacy of the NATO commanders. Despite such huge budgets, the alliance has not won any of the major wars that it has fought. Neither Iraq nor Afghanistan have been stabilised, in fact the opposite has taken place. Both countries have been edged closer to ruin, a situation in which they are joined by other countries in which NATO has been active, such as Libya and Syria This columnist warned in writing in 2011 that a flood of refugees into Europe and a revival of the terror machine would follow NATO intervention in Libya and afterwards, Syria. Not being from the tribe of boosters of NATO, these warnings went unheeded, as indeed did others in the past, such as to Andrew Marshall at the Pentagon soon after the Iraq that the way US forces were operating in that country, disaster would follow.
The advice was that these forces ought to situate themselves at the borders of the country, and leave the rest of the land to be run by the people of Iraq themselves rather than by comic book proconsuls such as Paul Bremer. Any individual who calls out such mistakes is sought to be marginalized as a “fringe element”, and this is the fate that has been reserved for Donald Trump, unless there be a September Surprise or an October Surprise which makes Hillary Clinton toxic to the US voter, thereby enabling the construction magnate to occupy the White House in a shock victory that would see the first challenge to establishment primacy in policy since first Teddy and later Franklin Roosevelt took over at the White House.
Franklin in particular was a visionary, for example favouring independence for India even in the 1930s, but he chose a machine politician, Harry Truman, as his Vice President, and once the lad from Missouri came into the Oval Office, he ensured that the establishment regained its dominance over policy, a process accelerated under Dwight D Eisenhower, who played golf while conventional wisdom ruled over policy, among the most disastrous of which was Washington (except briefly in the case of the Suez Canal) abandoning the Roosevelt policy of support for Asian countries against European colonialism, and allying the US with France in Vietnam. These days, at Aleppo, another huge error by NATO seems to be taking shape. So visceral is the hatred of the alliance for Bashar Assad (a stance formed through generous donations to think tanks and retired officials by countries seeking the overthrow of the Alawite leader) and his ally Vladimir Putin that it has backed what at the core are elements of ISIS in that city.
Should the “moderate opposition” take over the east of that almost fully destroyed city, as is sought by NATO and its regional allies, the more than a million inhabitants in the western parts of Aleppo that are Alawi,Kurd, Christian or moderate Sunni face the same sort of slavery and slaughter that faced the Yazidis when ISIS (armed with weapons earlier handed over to the “moderate opposition” by France and Qatar) surrounded Mount Sinjar. Certainly Bashar Assad is hardly a textbook example of a democrat, but he is a far better bet for the security of the globe than those battling his army, and which contain elements from across the region and from Europe who are committed to Abubakr Al Baghdadi’s fancied caliphate.
Should NATO succeed in breaking Assad’s siege of Aleppo, it will be responsible for the bloodbath that will follow once the fighters armed and funded by it take control of the whole of the city the way they had in the past. The good news for NATO is that the UN Human Rights machinery has a blind spot where the alliance is concerned, and hence none of its members will need to stand before any tribunal in Geneva. There has been a steady drum roll of commentary by CNN, Al Jazeera and BBC as well as several newspapers about the sufferings of the people of Aleppo, exactly as was the case in Benghazi in 2011. However, should NATO’s chosen warriors prevail over Assad, that is when the massacres will begin.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Opposition seeks to script 2017 turnaround (Sunday Guardian)

Had NDA started prosecuting Congress leaders from 2014, Congress , at worst, wouldn’t have cooperated in Parliament, which it didn’t anyway.
Both India as well as the Opposition parties (and Congress in particular) have gained from the passage of the GST Bill, the latter because passage was in August 2016 rather than in 2014 or early 2015. After Parliament’s approval, there will be a year of adjustment, including getting the measure ratified by enough state Assemblies so that it forms part of the Constitution of India. Once the full parameters are drawn up and implemented, what follows will be two years of painful reconfiguration before the economy exhibits the benefits of what is indeed a reform that in its scale compares with the changes in the industrial licensing policy that were made by then Industries Minister (and concurrently Prime Minister) Narasimha Rao in 1992. In contrast, the UPA oversaw a flood of imports into India, especially from Europe, a continent that received special treatment during the Manmohan decade, and which policy helped lead to the severe financial strains the country began showing from the close of 2007 onwards, when the ill effects of a “Foreigner First” policy framework began to course through the economy. The 2009 Lok Sabha polls were won by the Congress party and its allies because the effects of their toxic governance had not yet begun to manifest themselves in the way they did by 2011. And had Narendra Modi been the PM candidate of the BJP in 2009, that party may not have secured a majority on its own, but would certainly have emerged as the single largest party in the Lok Sabha.

By the close of 2012, the Congress president had become a liability for her party. The Congress would have seen its seat tally cross into three digits in 2014 had Rahul Gandhi got installed that year as the PM in place of Manmohan. The latter was seen as obedient to the point of servitude to Sonia Gandhi, and visibly ineffective in managing “his” team. However, once defeated, the Congress appears to have re-discovered its thinking cap, for example, by (a) ensuring that the GST Bill got passed so late into Modi’s term that its political benefits would accrue to the combination winning the 2019 polls, rather than to the existing government, and (b) demanding lower GST rates while the BJP constantly hints at high rates. Once the Modi government increases GST rates, the ruling party will lose a substantial portion of public sympathy, while the Congress will gain due to its call for an 18% cap.

If Sonia Gandhi became toxic to most voters by 2012, Narendra Modi concurrently emerged not merely as the most credible anti-Sonia politician, but also as the most potent antidote to the policies that Sonia Gandhi’s government was following. By the start of 2013, most voters accepted as fact the BJP’s incessant cry of the UPA government being a collection of the corrupt. However, since coming into office on 26 May 2014, there has not even been an FIR filed against any senior member of the Manmohan Singh Cabinet, much less a prosecution. Even action against those ministers which had been initiated under the UPA appears to have slowed. This is being touted by the Congress as “proof” that the many BJP allegations made in the past of their misconduct were mere political hyperbole. Sonia Gandhi has indeed been having to face a spot of bother over National Herald, but that has been due to an individual acting in his private capacity and not the government. Had the newly installed Modi government launched prosecutions in 2014 itself of top all-India leaders of the Congress, the worst that could have happened was precisely what took place: Congress non-cooperation in Parliament.

Among Manmohan Singh’s handicaps during 2004-2009 was the perception that his party would lose in 2009. Had the official machinery believed then that the Congress would return to office for a second term, their response to commands for efficiency would have been better. But by 2011, it was clear that this would be Manmohan Singh’s last term and that Congress was on the way out. As yet, voters still believe that Narendra Modi will ensure for himself a second term. The success of PM Modi’s government depends on a perception of BJP success in 2019 continuing for the remainder of his current five-year term. Equally, such a perception itself hinges on Modi’s success in demonstrably steering the country in a very different way than his predecessor. Nowadays, the BJP organisation seems over reliant on the official machinery to deal with its opponents, chiefly through arrests and similar other actions carried out through Central agencies. But this is a country where prison has had an aura of sacrifice since Mahatma Gandhi’s time, and whether it be Hardik Patel or Kanhaiya, or indeed the Aam Aadmi Party MLAs who are getting rounded up with such frequency, such administrative steps will only ensure a rise rather than a collapse in the AAP’s popularity and drive it with greater force to Goa and Gujarat. Minimum government implies minimal reliance on colonial laws, as it does a dramatic reduction in the many bureaucratic obstacles to a citizen’s freedom of choice in work or leisure. For the BJP to regain traction as the antidote to UPA-style governance, the policies and practices embraced by the likes of Chidambaram and Sibal need to be seen to be reversed.

In 2012, the political winds were blowing Advantage BJP. However, unless that party’s organisational wing follows a political strategy suited to India’s increasing numbers of 21st century mindset people, 2017 may witness—and this may at the moment sound as incredible as this columnist’s 2006 forecast of Modi being the next PM—an Advantage Opposition breeze that could develop into a gale as the country heads towards the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. It is time for Modi to make his government much more “Modified” than at present.

Friday, 5 August 2016

Sykes-Picot must be undone for stability (Pakistan Observer)

In any part of the world where the governance mechanism is healthy and the level of freedoms enjoyed by the citizen high, those who have migrated from India do exceptionally well. Indian-Americans are the wealthiest ethnic group in the US, with an average income higher than either Japanese-Americans or Jewish Americans. The story is similar in other parts of the world, including within the European Union. This is despite the fact that there is a transparent bias within that conglomerate of states for those of European ethnicity. In Germany, for example, immigration authorities would most likely turn away a software programmer from Chennai or an engineer from Kanpur, but would welcome with warmth under-educated members of regional mafia groups from Rumania or Bulgaria.
The European Union has been founded on the premise that ethnic Europeans are far and away the most productive and intelligent of human beings, and hence that giving them privileged access would enhance the future prospects of the country taking them in. This is in contrast to the US, where for the past fifteen years, those entering the country (legally) from Asia have been placed on par with those from Europe, unlike in Australia and New Zealand, although even in these countries, authorities are understanding a truth.
That human beings have been created equal in human potential by Almighty, if only each were given the same chance to excel. Again in the US, in the closing weeks of 2008 the majority of voters ( of whom a majority were of European extraction) voted in Barack Hussein Obama as both as their Head of State and Head of Government. Should Obama get his wish fulfilled, the next President of the US will be Hillary Clinton, the former Secretary of State who was endorsed with grace and charm by Michelle Obama, who made the best speech that was heard during the just concluded Democratc National Convention, far better than the platitudinous remarks that were made by President Obama and his hoped-for successor Hillary Clinton Perhaps because the perception of such quality is what got him the Nobel Peace Prize, Barack Obama constantly puts on the mien of a saint, long on statements of noble intent but less than surefooted about how to translate them into practice.
However, overall he has been an outstanding President of the US, not always because of what he has accomplished, but what he has prevented. Had Obama found the courage to oppose Hillary Clinton in her zeal to ensure that the wishes of France, Qatar and Saudi Arabia got carried out to the letter in the case of Libya in 2011, Europe would almost certainly have been spared the flood of refugees that since 2011 has kept on coming and will keep on seeking to enter Europe for several years more. The flood of weapons into Libya fuelled the conversion of the anti-Assad campaign in Syria into an armed struggle interwoven with acts of terror.
It is the intervention of NATO and its regional partners that has generated the terror groups and the instability that has wracked Syria since mid-2012,when Hillary Clinton and her French and UK counterparts ramped up backing for that nonexistent tribe,” moderate fighters”. Had President Obama not held back from doing a Libya in Syria, the situation regarding refugees as well as terror would have been worse than even the horrors taking place during the present time in Syria.
Whether it be Iraq, Libya or Syria, intervention by NATO has led to the unravelling of the 1916 Sykes-Picot agreement, this time as well mainly by the same powers that signed the initial mapping of boundaries in the region around and within the Levant, France and the UK. Apart from Hillary Clinton, who has consistently backed Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar in geopolitical disputes in the Middle East, it has been Paris and London that have led the way in intervention. In the process, myths have proliferated (such as that “the entry of ISIS is because NATO did not take out Assad the way it did Kaddafy” or that “ a bloodbath was averted in Benghazi by intervention”) that are as much barefaced lies as the repeated statements of George W Bush, Tony Blair and their underlings and apologists that Saddam Hussein possessed WMD when the Iraqi dictator and his men told the world till they were hoarse the truth, that there was no longer any WMD in Iraq.
In the case of Benghazi, the bloodbath followed its “liberation” and not before, although of course, the International Criminal Court at the Hague would not dare to bring to trial Nicholas Sarkozy or the fantasist posing as a philosopher who most bayed for intervention in Libya, Bernard-Henri Levy, who incidentally has been as vocal about intervention in Syria as he was in the case of Libya. Of course, it must be admitted that such views ensure a royal welcome in Doha or Riyadh, not to mention the US Department of Stare, where several dozen serving officers have sought to assure their promotions in the eagerly awaited Hillary Clinton Presidency by demanding US military intervention in Syria.
Should they succeed, the odds are high that there would be a military clash between Russia and NATO in the Syrian theatre, just as the odds are rising that there will be a naval conflict between Japan, the US and Australia with China in the South China seas. Even more than the grossly mismanaged aftermath of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, events in West Asia from 2011 to the present have ensured instability — indeed chaos — in large parts of that region for at least a generation more.
Hillary Clinton, even if she somehow manages to lose the Presidential race to Donald Trump, will enter the history books as being a prime mover in the process that has resulted in the reversing of Sykes-Picot. Whether it be Syria, Libya or Iraq,it is unrealistic and indeed dangerous to seek to return these countries to their Sykes-Picot boundaries. New states have become inevitable out of the three, and only when these have been formed will the situation in the region have the potential to regain the stability that was lost for it by NATO and its thoughtless interventions.